U.S. Military Teaches Living Off the Land to Feed Future Warriors

On the first day of training in the mountain forest on a recent fall day, Army Spc. Jennifer Evans struggled to properly sharpen a butcher’s knife. Two days later, she was expertly slicing roasts and steaks off a cow carcass and had learned to boil down the bones to make broth.

Spc. Evans was with a handful of military cooks being trained to butcher and prepare meat in austere conditions, skills that have the potential to make the U.S. military more nimble and combat-effective in the event of major conflict. The training, which began a few years ago as a pilot program for Green Beret cooks, recently expanded to include conventional units.

During two decades of conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military has largely come to rely on bulky truck convoys or air resupply to provide soldiers not only bullets and fuel, but also every morsel of food, even at remote combat outposts.

Military leaders say such lengthy supply chains may not be workable in a potential future large-scale conflict and are preparing troops to be more able to live off the land. They are rolling out lessons on how to source all sorts of food, including meat, through local means.

The shift to foraging, the military term for sustaining a unit using local agricultural products and supplies, means military cooks like Spc. Evans need to know more than how to reheat prepackaged food. They need to know how to find and prepare meals for soldiers in remote locations who need protein-rich nutrition. And in a remote Colorado camp near Pikes Peak, she moved on from boiling beef bones to learning how to slice a fresh pork chop from a pig that had been butchered the day before.

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